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The Complete Guide to Getting Your Sponsor Licence (SME)

Obtaining a Licence to Sponsor overseas workers for your small or medium-sized business could give you the competitive edge it needs to succeed. Find out more about how to get a Sponsor Licence.


What is a Sponsor Licence?

Obtaining a Licence to Sponsor overseas workers for your small or medium-sized business could give you the competitive edge it needs to succeed. If you’re stuck for workers and would like to expand your vacancies to an international audience, you may need to consider applying for a Sponsorship Licence. Sponsorship licences can cover a range of jobs from permanent to temporary positions. They are an important way to encourage diversity in your company and ensure you get the best candidates, regardless of where they’re coming from.

Sponsorship Licence for your business covers Skilled Worker and Temporary Worker Visas. The Skilled Worker Visa is for long-term skilled positions. The Temporary Worker route is for temporary workers who will be employed for 12 months or less. The Sponsor Licence will allow you to grant a Certificate of Sponsorship to whichever of the visas that you choose.

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How to get a sponsor license in the uk

If you plan on getting a sponsor licence for your business then you can do so by applying online on the gov.uk website.

It should take between 20-30 minutes to fill in the online application form, you will need to provide information about your business.

Once you have completed your application form you will need to send the Home Office the submission sheet from the end of the application form as well as your supporting documents.

You can send your submission sheet and supporting documents via email using the email address at the end of the application form. You will need to attach pictures or scans of the documents and should make sure that each image is in PDF, JPEG or PNG format, has a short descriptive title, are easily readable.

Once you have submitted the application and paid the application fee the Home Office will begin to process your application. You will usually receive a decision within 8 weeks. However, UKVI may need to visit your business before making a decision.

Sponsorship Management

Your company will need appropriate monitoring systems for your overseas workers. There are three job titles outlined by the Home Office necessary to operate the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). These include:

  • Authorising officer: this is a senior role responsible for the staff who operate the SMS.
  • Key contact: this person will liaise with UK Visas and Immigration when required.
  • Level 1 user: this is a role responsible for the day-to-day management of the SMS.

These roles can all be filled by one person if necessary, which may be a stroke of luck for small business owners who can’t spare three separate employees to cover the SMS.

The person(s) in these roles will need to have no criminal convictions against them and also be able to prove that they live in the UK the majority of the time.

The Home Office expects you to have an HR team to manage these positions but have also stipulated that this can be subcontracted – another win if you have less than 50 employees to begin with.

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As long as you or your company has no unspent criminal convictions against you, you are more than likely eligible to apply for a Sponsor Licence. These convictions can include immigration offences, as well as issues with fraud or money laundering – if you’re a genuine, honest business owner, you won’t need to worry about this part.

The only other issue you may encounter would be for a history of failing to carry out sponsorship duties in the past. For fresh applicants, a clean criminal history will mean you face little opposition for eligibility.

Sponsor Licence supporting documents

Supporting documents may be expected for your application, this varies depending on the size and sector of your business. For example, if you are a public body, no documents are required.

For a small business, supporting documents could include:

  • a list of all your current employees and their roles;
  • a letter detailing why you’re applying, what sector you’re in and you’re operating hours; and
  • details of the jobs you’re looking to fill, as well as information on candidates you may have already identified.

Cost of your application

The cost of sponsor licence varies depending on the type of business applying.

The Home Office will charge you £536 if your business can be defined as a charity or small entity. Medium or large sponsors are charged a higher fee of £1,476.

A company can qualify as small if there is no more than 50 employees, the annual turnover is not higher than £10.2 million and the balance sheet total is no more than £5.1 million.

Sponsor Licence Suspended

How long your sponsorship lasts

Once you’re granted your Sponsor Licence, it will last for four years. The renewal service is also operated through the SMS. As long as you make sure to renew before your licence expires, this will be a relatively simple process.

The licence is rated either A or B. All businesses will begin on A and stay there unless the Home Office finds out that the correct procedures are not being followed. Once on a B rating, you will be expected to make changes or risk a Sponsor Licence revocation.

If you would like to read more about the Sponsor Licence, visit our homepage for more information or request a call back from one of our expert advisers. We have offices located across the UK, including in LondonManchester, or Birmingham. You can also use the office finder to find the closest branch to you.

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